Michael Sheringham, Michel Foucault, Pierre Rivière and the Archival Imaginary’, Comparative Critical Studies 8.2–3 (2011): 235–257.
Apart from his inaugural lecture, the first published fruits of Michel Foucault’s election to the Collège de France in 1970 derived from a seminar on the interaction of medical discourses and penal reform, which centred on the archive of a horrific murder case that had taken place in rural Normandy in 1835. The book, entitled Moi, Pierre Rivière, ayant égorgé ma mère, ma soeur et mon frère . . . un cas de parricide au dix-neuvième siècle présenté par Michel Foucault (1973), assembled a remarkably full dossier of materials that had been preserved in the archives of the Calvados region at Caen. After a brief introduction by Foucault, the book comprised: legal documents from the investigation and trial of the eighteen-year-old Pierre Rivière, who had carried out the slaughter; witness statements by inhabitants of the tiny hamlet La Faucterie, near Aunay, not far from Vire, where the events had taken place; conflicting medical reports on the mental condition of the murderer; articles from local newspapers such as Le Pilote du Calvados on the various phases of the affair; and finally an extraordinary memoir in which the murderer, who had been provided with writing materials in prison, first gave a detailed account of the circumstances that had led to his terrible act – cutting down his mother and siblings with a bill-hook – and, secondly, provided an autobiographical account of his actions before and after the crime.
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